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The Engineering Design and Systems Engineering communities have matured significantly in the past half a century, and have made significant inroads in advancing the “science” of designing products and systems. The National Science Foundation has certainly been one of the catalysts and the fuel for this evolution in the United States, and continues to support advancing the field to impact positively economies and to help address the betterment of life for mankind. Engineering system design has embraced many of the necessary technical and non-technical fields needed to address design in a holistic manner, and several programs specifically addressing the interdisciplinary science of design have emerged. The ASME IDETC and the Design Society ICED conferences have brought the national and international communities together to exchange knowledge and a number of other conferences now champion design (TMCE, CAD, WCSMO, DCC, ICORD, INCOSE, etc.) Simultaneously, several journals have served the community, providing archival resources and a vehicle to share and advance knowledge.

In October 2015, the first in the series of system design-centric workshops was held at Clemson University with a focus on defining strategic directions for the community to better impact research and education.   This first workshop addressed some of the questions raised in prior meetings to provide an opportunity to discuss research directions, and to provide current NSF grantees the opportunity to share their work with the NSF program director and design colleagues.  A second workshop was held at Georgia Tech University, with a focus on how to make external stakeholders and funders understand the critical role engineering design and systems engineering research plays in advancing science and technology.

The third workshop in the series of NSF Design Circle workshops, to be held at Oregon State University,  aims to start addressing global, real-world engineering system design and development challenges, and define the impact the engineering design and systems engineering communities can have on addressing these challenges.  Therefore the focus is on providing a mapping of research directions to solutions and potential collaborations.


Key Questions and Topics of Discussion:


The major objective of this workshop is to have significant impact on the research we conduct in engineering design and systems engineering because of the unique challenges and opportunities of designing and developing global engineering systems.  Such systems require designers to work in a context in which the artifact being “designed” is no longer under their control, but rather evolves through interactions between multiple/many stakeholders, effectively resulting in complex adaptive systems.  This unique context would clearly have an impact on the choice and characteristics of design methodologies because, rather than making decisions about the artifact, one would need to worry about how to  influence other stakeholders so that they make choices that as a whole leads to desirable outcomes.  To address this objective, the workshop will conduct discussions around the following topics in support of designing systems to global systems challenges:


  1. What are the greatest and unique research challenges and roadblocks?
  2. What are the gaps and unique opportunities for developing synergistic methodologies between engineering design and systems engineering communities?


The newly formed programs ESDE program at NSF, which is a merger of three prior programs, especially encourages proposals around the related theme of Understanding the Development of Systems at Scale.  This workshop will seek to define what this theme would mean to the various subfields within the community, around research investigating challenges of designing and validating extremely large scale or complex technical and socio-technical platforms and systems.

To cover these two topics, the workshop will include panel discussions and keynote presentations from the research community as well as from key industry stakeholders to understand the global system design and development challenges, include system design activities to engage the community using design thinking methods we teach in our classrooms,  elevator pitches, walkabouts, and social time to fully engage the research community.

In addition, there will be a specific session to showcase results of funded NSF research in the ESDE (formerly ESD, SYS, and DEMS) program and discuss progress with your program director, Dr. Rich Malak, as well as a session dedicated to reviewing NSF proposals by the ESDE research community.